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Report to Congressional Requesters:



United States General Accounting Office:



GAO:



January 2004:



Humane Methods of Slaughter Act:



USDA Has Addressed Some Problems but Still Faces Enforcement 

Challenges:



GAO-04-247:



GAO Highlights:



Highlights of GAO-04-247, a report to Congressional Requesters



Why GAO Did This Study:



In 1978, the Congress passed the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act to 

ensure that cattle, sheep, hogs, and other animals destined for human 

consumption are handled and slaughtered humanely. Within the U.S. 

Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food Safety and Inspection 

Service (FSIS) is responsible for enforcing the act. Recently, the 

Congress took additional actions to improve FSIS enforcement. GAO 

reviewed (1) the frequency and scope of humane handling and slaughter 

violations, (2) actions to enforce compliance, and (3) the adequacy of 

existing resources to enforce the act. 



What GAO Found:



Incomplete and inconsistent inspection records made it difficult to 

determine the frequency and scope of humane handling and slaughter 

violations. FSIS was unable to produce at least 44 of its inspection 

records that document violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter 

Act (HMSA) and implementing regulations. Also, inspectors did not 

always document violations of the HMSA because they may not have been 

aware of regulatory requirements. Further, the records that FSIS 

provided did not consistently document the scope and severity of each 

incident. USDA is taking steps to address these issues.



Enforcement actions to address noncompliance with the act and 

regulations were also inconsistent. For example, we found that FSIS 

inspectors temporarily halted stunning operations in more than half of 

the cases involving ineffective stunning of a single animal, but in 

less than half of similar cases involving multiple animals. We also 

found that FSIS officials may not be using consistent criteria to 

suspend plant operations—the enforcement action used when serious or 

repeated violations of the HMSA occur. As a result, plants in 

different FSIS districts may not be subject to comparable enforcement 

actions. In November 2003, FSIS issued clearer guidance to its 

inspectors and field personnel that should help resolve some of these 

problems. 



FSIS lacks detailed information on how much time its inspectors spend 

on humane handling and slaughter activities making it difficult to 

determine if the number of inspectors is adequate. In general, FSIS 

officials believe that, with the introduction of a District Veterinary 

Medical Specialist at each of the agency’s field offices, the current 

number of personnel devoted to humane handling and slaughter 

compliance is adequate. 



What GAO Recommends:



GAO recommends that FSIS (1) record specific information on the type 

and causes of violations; (2) establish additional clear, specific, 

and consistent criteria for districts to use when considering 

enforcement because of repetitive violations; (3) require that 

districts and inspectors clearly document the basis for enforcement 

that are due to repetitive violations; (4) develop a mechanism for 

determining the level of effort inspectors devote to the HMSA; (5) 

develop criteria for determining the appropriate level of inspection 

resources needed; and (6) assess whether that level is sufficient to 

effectively enforce the act. FSIS generally agreed with our findings 

and recommendations.



www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-04-247.



To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click 

on the link above. For more information, contact Lawrence J. Dyckman 

at (202) 512-3841 or dyckmanl@gao.gov.



[End of section]



Contents:



Letter:



Results in Brief:



Background:



The Most Prevalent Violation Was Ineffective Stunning, but the Overall 

Frequency and Scope of Humane Slaughter Violations Is Difficult to 

Determine:



FSIS Took Inconsistent Enforcement Actions to Address Noncompliance:



FSIS Data on Inspection Resources Devoted to Overseeing Humane Handling 

and Slaughter Requirements Are Inadequate:



Conclusions:



Recommendations for Executive Action:



Agency Comments and Our Responses:



Appendix I: Scope and Methodology:



Appendix II: Comments from the Food Safety and Inspection Service:



GAO Comments:



Appendix III: GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments:



GAO Contacts:



Acknowledgments:



Table:



Table 1: Number of States and Slaughter Plants Covered by Each FSIS 

District, as of October 2002:



Figures:



Figure 1: Stunning of Animals:



Figure 2: Location of Plants Covered by the HMSA, as of October 2002:



Figure 3: Location of Plants Covered by the HMSA That Accounted for 80 

Percent of U.S. Meat Production during Fiscal Year 2002:



Figure 4: Location of Inspectors Observing Compliance with the HMSA at 

a Typical Mid-Size Plant:



Figure 5: Violations Documented in Noncompliance Records between 

January 2001 and March 2003:



Abbreviations:



DVMS: District Veterinary Medical Specialist: 

FSIS: Food Safety and Inspection Service: 

HMSA: Humane Methods of Slaughter Act: 

USDA: U.S. Department of Agriculture:



United States General Accounting Office:



Washington, DC 20548:



January 30, 2004:



The Honorable Robert F. Bennett: 

Chairman: 

The Honorable Herb Kohl: 

Ranking Minority Member: 

Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Related Agencies: 

Committee on Appropriations: 

United States Senate: 



The Honorable Henry Bonilla: 

Chairman: 

The Honorable Marcy Kaptur: 

Ranking Minority Member: 

Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug 

Administration, and Related Agencies: 

Committee on Appropriations: 

House of Representatives: 



More than 125 million cattle, sheep, hogs, and other animals ultimately 

destined to provide meat for human consumption were slaughtered in 

fiscal year 2002, at some 900 federally inspected facilities throughout 

the United States. In response to public concerns about cruelty to 

livestock in meatpacking plants, the Congress passed the Humane 

Slaughter Act of 1958. The act established as the policy of the United 

States that the slaughtering and handling of livestock be carried out 

only by humane methods. The act's provisions applied only to plants 

desiring to sell meat to the federal government.[Footnote 1] Twenty 

years later, the Congress passed the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act 

(HMSA) of 1978 to ensure that at all federally inspected slaughter 

establishments, not just those selling meat to the federal government, 

adopt humane handling and slaughter practices.[Footnote 2] In 

particular, the act specifies that animals must be quickly rendered 

insensible to pain before they are slaughtered.



The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), within the U. S. 

Department of Agriculture (USDA), is responsible for enforcing the 

Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. FSIS inspection personnel are 

stationed at each federally inspected slaughter facility to examine 

every carcass to ensure that it is safe for human consumption. Although 

their responsibilities are primarily for food safety, these inspectors 

are also responsible for monitoring compliance with the act and the 

applicable regulations at slaughter facilities throughout the country. 

FSIS guidance states that when inspectors observe noncompliance with 

the act's provisions, they should document the incident in a 

noncompliance record.[Footnote 3] Inspectors are also authorized to 

take enforcement action by temporarily shutting down parts of the 

plant's operations until management provides satisfactory assurances 

that the situation will be promptly remedied. In more serious cases, 

the agency may temporarily suspend plant operations by removing FSIS 

inspectors from a part of the facility or from the entire facility 

until the problem is corrected. Finally, the FSIS administrator can 

file a complaint to withdraw the grants of inspection from a facility, 

which prevents its products from entering interstate or foreign 

commerce. By law, slaughter facilities cannot slaughter and process 

animals for sale in commerce without federal inspectors 

present.[Footnote 4]



In recent years, the Congress has taken various actions to strengthen 

USDA's resources and to better ensure that the agency enforces the 

humane handling and slaughter provisions of the act. In fiscal year 

2001, the Congress earmarked funds for the agency to enhance humane 

slaughter practices.[Footnote 5] In response, FSIS created the position 

of District Veterinary Medical Specialist (DVMS) in each of its 

districts. The DVMSs are the primary contacts for all humane handling 

and slaughter issues in each FSIS district office, and they are the 

liaisons between the district offices and headquarters on humane 

handling and slaughter issues. They are responsible for on-site 

coordination of nationally prescribed humane slaughter procedures and 

verification of humane handling activities, as well as dissemination of 

directives, notices, and other information related to the act. In 

fiscal year 2002, the Congress further directed that the Secretary of 

Agriculture should fully enforce the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act 

and report annually to the Congress on the number of violations and 

trends recorded by FSIS inspectors.[Footnote 6] Fiscal year 2003 

appropriations legislation included $5 million for additional 

inspection activities.[Footnote 7] Also, in a recent congressional 

conference report for fiscal year 2003 appropriations, the conferees 

directed us to review and report to the appropriations committees on 

the scope and frequency of humane slaughter violations and to provide 

recommendations on the extent to which additional resources for 

inspection personnel, training, and other agency functions are needed 

to properly regulate slaughter facilities.[Footnote 8]



In response to this congressional directive, and through subsequent 

discussions with your staff, we (1) analyzed the frequency and scope of 

humane handling and slaughter noncompliance incidents documented by 

FSIS inspectors, (2) analyzed FSIS actions to enforce compliance with 

humane handling and slaughter provisions, and (3) assessed the extent 

to which additional resources may be needed to ensure that humane 

handling and slaughter provisions are enforced. To perform our work, we 

obtained and analyzed all available FSIS records of noncompliance with 

humane handling and slaughter requirements between January 2001 and 

March 2003. We reviewed enforcement actions that the FSIS inspectors 

took between January 2001 and March 2003 and that FSIS district 

managers took between October 2001 and July 2003. To obtain information 

on resources dedicated to humane handling and slaughter oversight, we 

interviewed FSIS program officials and reviewed available workforce 

data. We also reviewed all of the completed DVMS summary reports that 

outline the officials' overall observations after each plant visit. To 

obtain their views on the adequacy of personnel and training resources, 

we conducted structured interviews with district managers, deputy 

district managers, and DVMSs in all 15 FSIS districts. Finally, we 

obtained the views of humane slaughter experts, industry association 

representatives, and animal welfare groups. We conducted our work 

between April 2003 and November 2003 in accordance with generally 

accepted government auditing standards. Appendix I describes our 

methodology in more detail.



Results in Brief:



Incomplete and inconsistent FSIS inspection records made it difficult 

to determine the frequency and scope of humane handling and slaughter 

violations. Available FSIS records show that during the 28 months 

between January 2001 and March 2003, inspectors wrote 553 noncompliance 

records to document violations of the HMSA and the implementing 

regulations at 272 facilities across the United States. According to 

these inspection records, ineffective stunning, which does not quickly 

render animals insensible to pain as required by the act, was the most 

prevalent type of noncompliance. To a lesser extent, the records 

documented poor facility conditions that could lead to animal injury 

and failure to provide water to animals awaiting slaughter as other 

prevalent violations. However, in conducting this analysis, we found 

internal control problems that call into question the reliability of 

FSIS's records regarding compliance with the act. First, because the 

agency had not stored its noncompliance records in electronic form, it 

could not provide us with at least 44 additional records from the 

period between January 2001 and March 2003. In addition, almost half of 

the DVMSs with whom we spoke reported that inspectors did not always 

document noncompliance when they should have because they were unsure 

about regulatory requirements; for example, they were not sure if a 

violation was too minor to be documented. Second, the noncompliance 

records did not consistently document the scope and severity of 

violations. Inspectors are required to document HMSA noncompliance 

through narrative that includes the applicable statutory or regulatory 

provision, a concise description of the violation, and any other 

relevant evidence; but the records show that inspectors did not 

describe violations in a consistent manner. For example, while some 

noncompliance records provided detailed information on the causes of 

observed ineffective stunning and the number of animals impacted, other 

records only mentioned that ineffective stunning occurred but provided 

no additional details. Incomplete and inconsistent data can make it 

difficult for FSIS to accurately assess compliance with the act and to 

report the results to the Congress. Despite these data limitations, in 

its March 2003 report to the Congress, USDA indicated that during 

fiscal year 2002 "very few infractions were for actual inhumane 

treatment of the animals." Officials informed us that their analysis 

was based on a sample of approximately half of the noncompliance 

records available. In contrast, our analysis of all of the 

noncompliance records FSIS provided for fiscal year 2002 shows that one 

fourth of the 366 noncompliance incidents documented by inspectors, 

were for incidents of ineffective stunning--a violation that USDA 

characterized in its report to the Congress as "actual inhumane 

treatment." FSIS has made recent efforts to improve documentation, 

including better tracking of documentation and new guidance to 

inspectors.



FSIS took inconsistent enforcement actions to address noncompliance 

with the HMSA. For example, we found that plant inspectors temporarily 

halted stunning operations in more than half of the cases involving 

ineffective stunning of a single animal, but in less than half of 

similar cases involving multiple animals. Half of the DVMSs we 

interviewed attributed the inconsistent enforcement actions to 

inspectors' inexperience, lack of clarity regarding their authority, or 

the misperception that certain violations are minor. We found similar 

inconsistencies at the district management level. District managers can 

decide to take the more serious enforcement action of withdrawing 

inspectors from the plant, thus suspending a plant's operations, when 

they are notified of serious violations. However, they lack clear 

criteria on when to do so, and this can lead to inconsistencies in 

enforcement. We found, for example, one case in which a district 

manager did not suspend plant operations after inspectors had issued 16 

noncompliance records to a slaughter facility documenting the plant's 

failure to properly stun animals. In contrast, another facility's 

failure to provide access to water and to maintain acceptable pen 

conditions led to a suspension of operations. As a result, FSIS cannot 

ensure that humane slaughter requirements are consistently enforced 

across districts, undermining FSIS efforts to effectively enforce the 

act. In November 2003, FSIS issued guidance that should help inspectors 

determine when it is appropriate for them to take enforcement actions. 

However, the guidance is less explicit about when district actions are 

warranted. For example, the guidance does not identify thresholds at 

which repetitive instances of noncompliance at the same facility would 

require action by district officials.



FSIS does not have data on the number of inspectors devoted to 

compliance with the HMSA or on the amount of time that inspectors spend 

on humane handling and slaughter requirements. Without such 

information, FSIS cannot determine the appropriate number of inspectors 

for different sized plants or the number of inspectors needed overall 

to effectively enforce the act. FSIS headquarters and district 

officials believe that, for the most part, the current number of 

inspectors is sufficient to monitor and enforce humane handling and 

slaughter requirements. In particular, district officials believe that 

the present number of DVMSs is adequate to cover each district's HMSA 

responsibilities. However, the officials said that despite improvements 

made by the hands-on training provided by DVMSs, they remain concerned 

about inspectors' overall level of knowledge regarding HMSA 

requirements. When we discussed this matter with FSIS headquarters 

officials, they said that, in addition to the new November 2003 

directive that provides clearer guidance, the agency is currently 

taking steps to improve inspectors' knowledge. For example, the agency 

is developing scenarios for inspectors that will illustrate how to 

implement the HMSA requirements.



To help ensure adequate enforcement of the HMSA, we are recommending 

that the Secretary of Agriculture direct FSIS to (1) include in 

noncompliance records specific information on the type and cause of 

violations, (2) establish additional criteria for when districts are to 

take enforcement actions in cases of repetitive violations, (3) require 

that district offices and inspectors clearly document the basis for 

enforcement actions that they take in response to repetitive 

violations, (4) develop a mechanism for determining the level of 

resources that the agency devotes to humane handling and slaughter 

activities, (5) develop criteria for determining the appropriate level 

of inspection resources, and (6) periodically assess whether that level 

is sufficient to effectively enforce the act.



FSIS commented on a draft of this report and generally agreed with our 

findings and recommendations. FSIS also provided a number of specific 

comments, which we incorporated in the report as appropriate.



Background:



The Congress passed the Humane Slaughter Act in 1958 in response to 

intense and broad-based public concerns about cruelty and abuse of 

livestock in meat-packing plants.[Footnote 9] At that time, the 

Congress determined that using humane methods of slaughter prevented 

the needless suffering of livestock, resulted in safer and better 

working conditions for employees, and brought about improvements in 

products and economies of slaughter operations, among other benefits. 

The act established as U. S. policy that the handling and slaughtering 

of livestock should be carried out using humane methods. However, the 

act applied only to plants wishing to sell meat products to federal 

government agencies. In 1978, the Congress passed the HMSA, which 

amended the Federal Meat Inspection Act and extended the policy 

nationwide by requiring that all federally inspected slaughter 

establishments adopt humane handling and slaughter methods. The HMSA 

requires that animals be "rendered insensible to pain by a single blow 

or gunshot or an electrical, chemical or other means that is rapid and 

effective, before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or 

cut."[Footnote 10] The act also provides for a ritual slaughter 

exemption that allows the slaughter of animals in accordance with the 

ritual requirements of any faith "that prescribes a method of slaughter 

whereby the animal suffers loss of consciousness by anemia of the brain 

caused by the simultaneous and instantaneous severance of the carotid 

arteries with a sharp instrument and handling in connection with such 

slaughtering."[Footnote 11]



FSIS has issued regulations and directives to enforce the act. 

Important requirements of these regulations and guidance include the 

following:



* All animals must be effectively stunned before they are slaughtered. 

Stunning is effective when the animal feels no pain, is rendered 

instantly unconscious, and remains unconscious until slaughtered;



* Dragging of disabled and other animals unable to move, while 

conscious, is prohibited;



* All holding pens and driveways and ramps must be designed, built, and 

maintained to prevent injury to livestock;



* Livestock should be provided with water in holding pens, and food if 

held for more than 24 hours;



* The use of electrical prods and other devices to move livestock must 

not be excessive and should be used as little as possible.



Figure 1 illustrates two separate stunning efforts---one of a cow being 

stunned with a mechanical captive bolt and another of a sheep being 

stunned with an electrical stunner.



Figure 1: Stunning of Animals:



[See PDF for image]



[End of figure]



As of October 2002, 918 plants were covered by the HMSA in the United 

States. Figure 2 shows the distribution of these plants.



Figure 2: Location of Plants Covered by the HMSA, as of October 2002:



[See PDF for image]



[End of figure]



While the plants are concentrated heavily in the Northeast, they tend 

to be smaller plants. The 49 large producers, who account for 

approximately 80 percent of total production of meat in the country 

during fiscal year 2002, are mainly located in the Midwest, as figure 3 

illustrates.



Figure 3: Location of Plants Covered by the HMSA That Accounted for 80 

Percent of U.S. Meat Production during Fiscal Year 2002:



[See PDF for image]



[End of figure]



FSIS is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Humane Methods of 

Slaughter Act.[Footnote 12] The FSIS is organized into 15 district 

offices that include: Alameda, Albany, Atlanta, Beltsville, Boulder, 

Chicago, Dallas, Des Moines, Jackson, Lawrence, Madison, Minneapolis, 

Philadelphia, Raleigh, and Springdale. Table 1 shows the states, number 

of plants, and type of plant, by size, for each FSIS district.[Footnote 

13]



Table 1: Number of States and Slaughter Plants Covered by Each FSIS 

District, as of October 2002:



FSIS District: Alameda; 

States Covered: CA; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Very small plants: 4; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Small plants: 25; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Large plants: 3; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Total plants[A]: 32.



FSIS District: Albany; 

States Covered: CT,ME,MA,NH,NY,RI,VT; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Very small plants: 71; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Small plants: 4; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Large plants: 0; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Total plants[A]: 75.



FSIS District: Atlanta; 

States Covered: FL, GA, PR, VI; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Very small plants: 50; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Small plants: 12; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Large plants: 0; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Total plants[A]: 62.



FSIS District: Beltsville; 

States Covered: DE, D.C., MD, VA, WV; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Very small plants: 26; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Small plants: 13; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Large plants: 2; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Total plants[A]: 41.



FSIS District: Boulder; 

States Covered: AZ, CO, NM, NV, UT, AK, AS, GU, HI, ID, OR, WA; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Very small plants: 79; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Small plants: 15; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Large plants: 8; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Total plants[A]: 102.



FSIS District: Chicago; 

States Covered: IL, IN, OH; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Very small plants: 25; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Small plants: 28; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Large plants: 6; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Total plants[A]: 59.



FSIS District: Dallas; 

States Covered: TX; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Very small plants: 17; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Small plants: 27; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Large plants: 4; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Total plants[A]: 48.



FSIS District: Des Moines; 

States Covered: IA, NE; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Very small plants: 23; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Small plants: 18; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Large plants: 18; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Total plants[A]: 59.



FSIS District: Jackson; 

States Covered: AL, MS, TN; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Very small plants: 25; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Small plants: 11; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Large plants: 2; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Total plants[A]: 38.



FSIS District: Lawrence; 

States Covered: KS, MO; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Very small plants: 52; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Small plants: 8; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Large plants: 9; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Total plants[A]: 69.



FSIS District: Madison; 

States Covered: MI, WI; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Very small plants: 33; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Small plants: 10; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Large plants: 4; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Total plants[A]: 47.



FSIS District: Minneapolis; 

States Covered: MN, MT, ND, SD, WY; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Very small plants: 26; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Small plants: 32; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Large plants: 7; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Total plants[A]: 65.



FSIS District: Philadelphia; 

States Covered: PA, NJ; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Very small plants: 112; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Small plants: 23; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Large plants: 3; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Total plants[A]: 139.



FSIS District: Raleigh; 

States Covered: NC, SC, KY; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Very small plants: 36; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Small plants: 14; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Large plants: 4; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Total plants[A]: 54.



FSIS District: Springdale; 

States Covered: AR, LA, OK; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Very small plants: 20; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Small plants: 7; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Large plants: 1; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Total plants[A]: 28.



Total; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Small plants: 247; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Large plants: 71; 

Plants covered by the HMSA: Total plants[A]: 918. 



Source: GAO presentation of FSIS data.



[A] FSIS did not provide size information for one plant, so the total 

number of plants under the three size categories does not equal 918.



[End of table]



In 2002, FSIS employed about 7,600 inspectors at red-meat plants and 

poultry facilities to inspect each carcass after it is slaughtered to 

ensure that it is safe for human consumption.[Footnote 14] Inspectors 

include at least one veterinarian assigned to each plant, who is 

required to evaluate the general health of animals before they are 

slaughtered, and Consumer Safety Inspectors, who are not veterinarians 

and have varying inspection responsibilities throughout the 

plant.[Footnote 15] FSIS officials maintain that as they carry out 

their food safety and other activities, all inspectors are responsible 

for monitoring compliance with humane handling and slaughter 

requirements at plants that are covered by the HMSA from the time 

livestock come into the custody of the plant to the time of slaughter. 

According to the FSIS, while the HMSA requires inspectors to observe 

the entire handling and slaughter process, inspectors do not have to 

observe all animals all the time for HMSA compliance. In contrast, the 

Federal Meat Inspection Act requires that each animal be examined prior 

to slaughter and each carcass be individually inspected after slaughter 

to ensure that the meat is safe for human consumption.[Footnote 16]



Typically, animals arrive on plant premises, are unloaded from trucks, 

and then are held in the stockyard area where FSIS inspectors perform 

the required antemortem inspection. During this inspection, disabled 

animals are separated from the herd. Animals are then moved through 

curved holding chutes and forcing pens onto the stunning platform, 

where they are stunned before being slaughtered. Figure 4 illustrates 

the areas in a typical, mid-size plant from which inspectors can 

observe for HMSA compliance, although inspectors are not always present 

in all areas.



Figure 4: Location of Inspectors Observing Compliance with the HMSA at 

a Typical Mid-Size Plant:



[See PDF for image]



[End of figure]



When inspectors observe a violation of the HMSA or its implementing 

regulations, they are required to notify plant management and document, 

with a noncompliance record, the violation and the actions taken by 

the:



plant to correct it. Inspectors can document more than one violation, 

and different types of violations, in a single noncompliance record. 

According to FSIS guidance, each noncompliance record should include 

the following information:[Footnote 17]



* A unique record number,



* The date of the violation,



* The plant identification number,



* Humane handling regulations applicable to the incident reported,



* A written description of the violation,



* The name of plant personnel notified of the violation, and:



* The plant management's written response stating both the immediate 

action to correct the violation and any subsequent action to prevent 

its recurrence.



In response to HMSA noncompliance, FSIS can take a number of 

enforcement actions--actions that impose restrictions on a facility's 

ability to operate. These actions include the following:



* For less serious violations of the HMSA, inspectors at a facility can 

issue a "reject tag" to quickly respond to violations that management 

can readily address. Inspectors physically place these reject tags on a 

piece of equipment or an area of the plant. This action temporarily 

prohibits the use of a particular piece of equipment or area of the 

facility until the violation is corrected.



* For more serious violations, the district manager can suspend 

inspection until the violation or violations are addressed.[Footnote 

18] This action, which removes FSIS inspectors from facility premises 

(or part of the facility), suspends operations at the facility (or part 

of the facility) because slaughter facilities may not operate without 

federal inspectors present.



* In cases where a plant fails to respond to FSIS concerns about 

repeated and/or serious violations, the administrator of FSIS can 

withdraw inspection. This enforcement action removes the grant of 

inspection from a facility, which prevents the facility's products from 

entering interstate and foreign commerce. The facility must reapply for 

and be awarded a grant of inspection before it may resume operations. 

This action is rarely used.



Agency supplemental appropriations in 2001 included $3 million, of 

which no less than $1 million was to be used to enhance the agency's 

humane slaughter practices.[Footnote 19] USDA used $1.25 million of 

these funds to hire 17 DVMSs to serve as program coordinators for all 

humane handling issues. By March 2002, a DVMS was at work in each of 

the FSIS district offices. The DVMSs, who received extensive training 

on humane handling and slaughter techniques and related inspection 

procedures, are the primary contacts for inspectors in each FSIS 

district office and the liaisons between the district offices and 

headquarters on humane handling and slaughter compliance. As of May 

2003, the 17 DVMSs had visited 576, or about 63 percent, of 918 plants 

covered by the HMSA. Thirteen of the 16 DVMSs we interviewed said that 

they had visited all or almost all of their assigned plants at least 

once. According to these 16 DVMSs, when they came on board, all of them 

participated in a number of district activities that went beyond the 

scope of humane handling and slaughter of animals, such as biosecurity 

and food safety issues. For example, nine DVMSs reported that these 

activities took 40 to 50 percent of their time. In March 2003, however, 

an FSIS memorandum directed all but five of the DVMSs to only perform 

humane handling activities.[Footnote 20] As a result, the activities of 

12 DVMSs changed, and their current focus is solely the implementation 

of the HMSA.



Despite these actions, concerns about the treatment of animals at U.S. 

slaughterhouses persist. For example, two animal welfare groups, the 

Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Farming Association, 

believe that enforcement of the act could be improved. These groups 

maintain that more continuous monitoring of compliance with the HMSA is 

necessary. Also, according to the Humane Society, USDA oversight is 

especially critical at facilities that specialize in disabled animals 

and old dairy cattle, as well as those with slaughter production lines 

that operate at high speeds.



Conversely, meat industry associations we contacted maintain that the 

way animals are handled and slaughtered has improved in response to 

pressure from customers of fast food restaurants and industry audits of 

slaughter establishments. When Dr. Temple Grandin, a renowned animal 

science authority, conducted a survey of 24 slaughterhouses in 1996 at 

USDA's request, she found that only 36 percent were able to stun 95 

percent of the cattle on the first try.[Footnote 21] When she repeated 

the survey in 2002, this time visiting 80 different plants, she found 

that 94 percent were able to do so.[Footnote 22] While Dr. Grandin's 

second survey shows a significant improvement, it still indicates that 

hundreds of thousands of animals were not stunned on the first try, as 

required by the act. Thus, there may be undetected instances of 

inhumane treatment. Dr. Grandin believes that effectively stunning 

animals on the first try 100 percent of the time is unachievable--that 

is why she proposed an objective scoring method as an alternative. 

Objective scoring uses definite thresholds for various types of humane 

handling and slaughter incidents and provides a means to promote 

consistency within and across slaughter establishments. When we 

discussed the objective scoring approach with FSIS officials, they 

pointed out that the approach may have merit, particularly as a 

monitoring tool. However, the officials pointed out that the HMSA 

requires that animals be effectively stunned on the first try with one 

single blow or gunshot. Therefore, objective scoring would not be an 

appropriate regulatory tool because it allows for less than 100 percent 

effectiveness in stunning. That is, under the objective scoring method, 

a plant's humane slaughter procedures would be considered adequate if, 

for example, 95 percent of the animals were stunned with one single 

blow or gunshot on the first try.



The Most Prevalent Violation Was Ineffective Stunning, but the Overall 

Frequency and Scope of Humane Slaughter Violations Is Difficult to 

Determine:



Our ability to assess the frequency and scope of noncompliance with the 

HMSA was limited because FSIS could not provide us with documentation 

for all of the noncompliance incidents and because the documentation 

provided was not always complete and consistent. The 553 noncompliance 

records that the agency provided to us show that, between January 2001 

and March 2003, there were 675 HMSA violations at 272 facilities--

approximately 30 percent of the more than 900 slaughter facilities in 

the United States. The most prevalent noncompliance documented was the 

ineffective stunning of animals, in many cases resulting in a conscious 

animal reaching slaughter. FSIS has made recent efforts to improve 

documentation--including steps to improve inspector awareness of 

documentation requirements, better tracking of noncompliance 

documents, and issuing new HMSA guidance in November 2003.



Inspection Records Were Incomplete and Inconsistent, Making It 

Difficult to Determine the Frequency and Scope of Noncompliance:



The universe of inspection records that FSIS provided to us was 

incomplete, making it difficult to assess the frequency of 

noncompliance with the HMSA. FSIS provided us with 553 documented 

records of noncompliance with the act and the implementing regulations 

covering the 28-month period from January 2001 through March 2003. 

However, we found internal control problems that call into question the 

reliability of the information in the FSIS records regarding HMSA 

compliance. Our analysis indicates that the extent of noncompliance 

with the HMSA and the implementing regulations is likely to be greater 

than what is reflected in the 553 records for several reasons. First, 

according to FSIS officials, inspectors wrote at least 44 additional 

noncompliance records during this period--January 2001 to March 2003. 

However, while their recordkeeping system indicates that these 

noncompliance records exist, the agency could not locate the actual 

noncompliance documents for our review. The officials said that the 

records were not electronically stored and that they would rather 

improve tracking of such documentation in the future than attempt to 

locate the missing records. This internal control problem is being 

addressed, according to FSIS officials, because the agency has 

transitioned to a system that stores all noncompliance records 

electronically. Second, according to several DVMSs' observations during 

their in-plant evaluations of humane slaughter activities, the 

frequency of noncompliance with the act is likely to be underreported. 

At least 7 of the 16 DVMSs we spoke with believe that inspectors have 

not always documented violations in noncompliance records when they 

should. The DVMSs said that some inspectors were not always aware of 

regulatory requirements and may have felt documentation was unnecessary 

because they either determined the offense was not serious or that it 

could be easily remedied. The principal guidance provided to 

inspectors--known as the "Rules of Practice"--does not specifically 

instruct inspectors on whether to document a violation if that 

violation does not result in an enforcement action and leaves it to the 

discretion of the inspector when an enforcement action is called 

for.[Footnote 23] However, recently, FSIS issued a directive that 

requires inspectors to document all violations in noncompliance 

records. Third, because inspectors do not engage in continuous animal 

by animal observation for humane handling and slaughter compliance 

purposes, violations may occur that are not recorded by inspectors.



Our ability to determine the overall scope and severity of humane 

slaughter violations was further limited by the inconsistent way 

inspectors document violations in noncompliance records. Inspectors 

describe noncompliances by narrative--for example, by specifying 

whether the violation involved ineffective stunning or lack of access 

to water. Our analysis of noncompliance records related to HMSA showed 

that inspectors do not describe violations in a consistent manner and 

their narratives can vary substantially. For example, while some 

noncompliance records provide detailed information on the observed 

causes of ineffective stunning and the exact number of animals 

impacted, other records only mention that ineffective stunning 

occurred. Additionally, because narrative is the only way an inspector 

can describe the HMSA noncompliance, the agency cannot easily extract 

and analyze information. Inspectors do include a code so that 

violations related to HMSA can be distinguished from violations related 

to food safety, but it is a universal code for all HMSA violations; and 

it does not provide any additional information about the type or 

severity of the violation.[Footnote 24] As a result, it is difficult 

for FSIS to quantify, interpret, and report the data related to the 

scope and severity of documented instances of noncompliance.



Incomplete and inconsistent data can make it difficult for FSIS to 

adequately assess how well HMSA standards are being enforced and to 

report those results to the Congress and other interested parties. In 

2002 legislation, the Congress stated that USDA should track violations 

of the HMSA and report the results and relevant trends annually to the 

Congress. In its March 2003 report to the Congress,[Footnote 25] USDA 

reported that during fiscal year 2002 it documented 379 noncompliance 

incidents out of 70,403 times when inspectors made observations for 

compliance with the HMSA. This averages to approximately six 

observations for HMSA compliance per month, or less than two 

observations per week, for each the 918 plants that are covered by the 

act. By analyzing approximately half of the noncompliance records 

available for fiscal year 2002, FSIS concluded in the report that the 

majority of these violations were related to facility conditions (e.g., 

slippery flooring, large gap between pen bars, etc.) and animals 

provisions (failure to provide water or food). It then concluded that 

"very few infractions were for actual inhumane treatment of the animals 

(e.g. dragging or ineffective stunning).":



However, our evaluation of USDA's data showed otherwise. We analyzed 

all the available noncompliance records for fiscal year 2002 and 

identified 366 noncompliance incidents, of which 92 (one-fourth) were 

for ineffective stunning--a violation that USDA characterizes as 

"actual inhumane treatment." Likely reasons for the discrepancy between 

our analysis and USDA's report are that we analyzed all available 

records, while FSIS officials told us that USDA's analysis was based on 

a subjectively selected sample of approximately half of the available 

records. Additionally, FSIS's violation documentation system--

specifically its sole reliance on narrative to document HMSA 

violations--required both FSIS officials and us to interpret the 

inspectors' narratives to identify the number and types of violations 

identified in the documentation. The FSIS official who conducted the 

analysis told us that upon close examination of these narratives, some 

instances that appear to be cases of direct animal injury in fact were 

not and would therefore not be considered by the agency to be actual 

inhumane treatment of animals.[Footnote 26]



We found similar results when we analyzed noncompliance records over a 

longer period--January 2001 to March 2003. During this period, FSIS 

produced 553 noncompliance records indicating some type of 

noncompliance with the HMSA. These noncompliance records were written 

for 272 plants, or about 30 percent, of the 918 plants that were 

covered by the act. Our analysis of these noncompliance records 

identified 675 violations. Of these violations, 167 were for 

ineffective stunning, meaning animals were not quickly rendered 

insensible to pain as required by the HMSA and the implementing 

regulations. We found that over 67 percent of the 167 ineffective 

stunning violations resulted in conscious animals being slaughtered. 

Other less prevalent violations included facility conditions that could 

lead to animal injury and lack of access to water. Our interviews with 

the DVMSs support these data. Among the 16 DVMSs we spoke with, the 

most prevalent violations they reported observing when they visited 

plants to evaluate humane handling and slaughter practices were 

ineffective stunning, poor facility conditions, and lack of access to 

water. Figure 5 summarizes the types of violations we identified, using 

FSIS documentation.



Figure 5: Violations Documented in Noncompliance Records between 

January 2001 and March 2003:



[See PDF for image]



Note: Our analysis of the 553 noncompliance records identified 675 

violations. A noncompliance record can include more than one violation.



[A] The ineffective stunning and conscious animals columns in the 

figure are not mutually exclusive. Specifically, in 112 cases, 

ineffective stunning resulted in one or more conscious animals moving 

to slaughter. In 55 cases, ineffective stunning was documented but not 

that a conscious animal was slaughtered. This could happen if, for 

example, multiple stunning efforts were required to render the animal 

unconscious. In 21 cases, inspectors noted that an animal was observed 

to be conscious at slaughter, without indicating ineffective stunning. 

This could happen if an animal regained consciousness after being 

effectively stunned.



[End of figure]



FSIS Is Taking Steps to Improve Inspector Awareness of Documentation 

Requirements and Introduced Changes in Its Documentation Process:



FSIS has recently taken steps to improve inspector awareness of 

documentation requirements and to correct the limitations in its 

inspection documentation process. According to DVMSs and other FSIS 

district officials with whom we spoke, as the DVMSs began playing an 

active role in working with inspectors at plants covered by the HMSA, 

the inspectors' level of knowledge regarding interpreting and 

documenting noncompliance has improved. In particular, DVMSs told us 

that inspectors are becoming more aware of the need to document 

noncompliance incidents that previously may have been considered to be 

too minor to document or may not have been considered a violation at 

all. As a result, the number of documented records for noncompliance 

incidents increased from January 2001 through March 2003. For example, 

in the first quarter of fiscal year 2002, FSIS inspectors issued 56 

noncompliance records documenting HMSA violations. This number 

increased to 134 in the first quarter of fiscal year 2003. Similarly, 

the number of noncompliance incidents documenting relatively minor 

violations increased as well. For example, during the same time frames, 

documented incidents for facility conditions that could cause injury to 

animals prior to slaughter increased from 5 to 40, and documented 

incidents of lack of access to water increased from 9 to 37. The DVMSs 

attributed the increase in part to the enhanced awareness of humane 

handling and noncompliance documentation requirements on the part of 

the inspectors.



Additionally, FSIS officials told us that the introduction of a humane 

handling procedure code in its Performance Based Inspection System (the 

computer-based system it uses to track compliance with all FSIS 

regulations), which took effect in October 2001, should help FSIS 

better track noncompliance records that document HMSA violations. While 

this change may address the agency's internal control problems 

regarding record maintenance, it will not, as we discussed earlier, 

provide sufficient data on the type of HMSA violations or make it 

easier for the agency to quantify, interpret, and report the data 

related to the scope and severity of the documented noncompliances.



FSIS also released a new directive, "Humane Handling and Slaughter of 

Livestock," in November 2003.[Footnote 27] This directive also provides 

additional guidance and informs inspectors on many aspects of HMSA 

compliance. Importantly, the directive specifically instructs 

inspectors to document all violations of the HMSA and implementing 

regulations, regardless of the severity of the violation or whether an 

enforcement action is called for.



FSIS Took Inconsistent Enforcement Actions to Address Noncompliance:



Our review of noncompliance records indicates that FSIS has taken 

inconsistent enforcement actions in response to violations of the 

Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and applicable regulations. Inspectors 

stationed in slaughter plants have not consistently issued "reject 

tags"--the enforcement action used for less serious violations--to 

temporarily stop a plant from using a piece of equipment or an area of 

the plant until the violation is corrected or appropriate actions are 

taken to prevent recurrence of the incident. Also, district managers 

were not using consistent criteria to suspend plant operations when 

more serious violations occurred.



Records Show Inspectors Took Inconsistent Enforcement Actions in 

Response to Noncompliance:



FSIS inspectors took enforcement actions in almost 40 percent of the 

documented noncompliance cases between January 2001 and March 2003. 

FSIS officials and guidance indicate that it is not appropriate to take 

an enforcement action for all violations. For example, while stunning 

an animal more than once is clearly an instance of noncompliance with 

humane handling and slaughter requirements, an inspector may not feel 

that an enforcement action is necessary if a plant employee stuns an 

animal more than once because of certain unavoidable conditions, such 

as an animal moving its head just prior to being stunned.



Nevertheless, our analysis of the noncompliance records indicates that 

inspectors are not consistently taking enforcement actions. 

Specifically, they are not consistently using reject tags.[Footnote 28] 

The records show that serious violations appear to have taken place--

violations that involved multiple instances of ineffective stunning or 

several animals being conscious during slaughter--but that inspectors 

did not take any enforcement action. For example, our analysis of 

enforcement actions taken in the 167 instances of ineffective stunning 

shows that inspectors used reject tags to temporarily suspend stunning 

operations in more than half of the 86 cases involving ineffective 

stunning of a single animal but in less than half of the 79 cases that 

involved multiple animals.[Footnote 29] In one particular incident, the 

inspector who prepared the noncompliance record wrote that he observed 

six conscious animals being slaughtered during a period of 5 minutes, 

and he considered the incident unacceptable; however, he did not take 

enforcement action. This inaction was in sharp contrast to many other 

cases where inspectors took enforcement actions, for relatively less 

serious violations, such as lack of access to water.



According to half of the 16 DVMSs we interviewed, inspectors often do 

not take enforcement action when they should. DVMSs attribute this 

inconsistent use of enforcement action to several factors. For example, 

some inspectors are hesitant to issue reject tags for ineffectively 

stunned animals because they are not veterinarians and are unsure about 

what signs indicate that an animal is still conscious after it has been 

stunned. They also noted that some inspectors lack the experience or 

knowledge regarding their authority to issue reject tags or simply 

misinterpret routine incidents--even though they are violations--as not 

warranting enforcement actions. FSIS did not provide data for the level 

of experience of inspectors. However, as part of the inspectors' new 

hire program, FSIS includes a module on humane handling issues; 

inspectors have no other formal training on the HMSA and its 

enforcement. Most of the deputy district managers and half of the DVMSs 

noted that an overall lack of knowledge among inspectors about how they 

should respond to an observed noncompliance has been a problem in 

enforcing the HMSA.



FSIS has begun to address the problem of unclear guidance by issuing a 

new humane handling and slaughter directive on November 25, 2003. This 

directive, for the first time, clearly states that inspectors are 

obligated to take enforcement actions when they observe inhumane 

treatment whether or not animal injury has resulted. Specifically, the 

directive states that inspectors must take action if either (1) a 

violation of humane handling and slaughter requirements has occurred 

that is not immediately causing injury or inhumane treatment of animals 

and the establishment has not taken appropriate preventative actions or 

(2) a violation of HMSA requirements has occurred and animals are being 

injured or treated inhumanely. Also, FSIS officials said that they have 

recently held meetings with the DVMSs and district officials that 

focused on making enforcement more consistent.



District Managers Have Also Taken Inconsistent Enforcement Actions:



In addition to the enforcement actions available to inspectors 

stationed at slaughter facilities, district managers may suspend the 

operations of an entire facility, or part of the facility, by removing 

the inspectors from the plant. Since FSIS inspectors must be present 

during slaughter operations, this effectively shuts down a facility. 

This enforcement action is more serious than the reject tags that 

inspectors can use and may be taken by district managers in the event 

of serious or repetitive violations. Between October 2001 and July 

2003, district managers issued eight suspensions at seven slaughter 

plants that directly involved HMSA violations. According to FSIS, seven 

of the suspensions were issued in response to incidents involving the 

physical treatment of animals--four in response to inappropriate 

stunning or conscious animals observed at slaughter, two in response to 

the mistreatment of disabled animals, and one in response to excessive 

use of electric prods and force. One suspension was issued in response 

to facility conditions (a protruding fence board that was pointing 

toward the animals and could cause injury) and lack of access to water. 

In addition, during the same period, FSIS districts issued four letters 

to plants to inform them that if corrective actions were not taken to 

prevent recurrence of noncompliance incidents, the districts would 

proceed with suspension action.



Our analysis of the 553 noncompliance records indicated that the 

severity and repetitiveness of the violations does not necessarily 

result in consistent enforcement actions by district managers. For 

example, in one case, inspectors had prepared 16 noncompliance records, 

all related to the ineffective stunning of animals. However, the 

district manager did not take enforcement action because, as he 

explained, the 16 incidents were not triggered by the same factor; if 

they had been, he said he would have suspended the plant. This 

contrasts with the opinion of another district manager who, commenting 

on this same situation, said that a case of so many related and 

relatively serious incidents is a definite candidate for a suspension.



District managers said that they identify facilities for suspension by 

reviewing the noncompliance records and looking for "red-flags"--

specifically, cases of serious and/or repetitive incidents of inhumane 

treatment of animals. While FSIS guidance stipulates that district 

level enforcement actions, such as suspensions, are appropriate when 

facilities have been unable to implement corrective and preventive 

actions in response to previously identified violations, the guidance 

does not contain suggested thresholds or criteria on when district 

actions are appropriate. More specifically, the guidance does not 

address how many repetitive instances of noncompliance should warrant 

district level enforcement actions. In the absence of uniform criteria, 

these enforcement decisions are likely to be inconsistent across FSIS 

districts, undermining FSIS' efforts to effectively enforce the act.



While the November 2003 directive provides some additional guidance on 

when suspensions are an appropriate response to multiple violations 

with the same or related cause, it does not provide any information on 

the number of related violations that would warrant a suspension. For 

example, in deciding whether a suspension is warranted, the directive 

states that district officials should consider the amount of time 

between violations--not the number of repeat violations--taken by the 

plant. FSIS officials noted that they have recently held meetings to 

emphasize consistent enforcement and discussed the issue at the October 

2003 National Supervisory Conference attended by over 200 agency field 

supervisors.



FSIS Data on Inspection Resources Devoted to Overseeing Humane Handling 

and Slaughter Requirements Are Inadequate:



Because FSIS does not have adequate data on the number of inspectors 

responsible for enforcing the HMSA or the actual time they spend on 

humane handling and slaughter requirements--nor other information, such 

as criteria to determine the appropriate number of inspectors for 

different sized plants--it is difficult to determine if the number of 

inspectors is adequate to effectively enforce the HMSA. However, FSIS 

headquarters and district officials believe that, for the most part, 

personnel resources dedicated to monitoring and enforcing humane 

handling and slaughter requirements are adequate. District officials 

believe that the present number of DVMSs is adequate to cover each 

district's HMSA responsibilities. The DVMSs are the primary contacts 

for inspectors in each FSIS district office and the liaisons between 

the district offices and headquarters on humane handling and slaughter 

issues. They are responsible for on-site coordination of nationally 

prescribed humane slaughter procedures and verification of humane 

handling activities, as well as dissemination of directives, notices, 

and other information related to the act. Fifteen districts have one 

DVMS and two districts, Boulder and Chicago, have two DVMSs 

each.[Footnote 30] According to FSIS district officials, the 17 DVMSs 

are sufficient to oversee humane handling and slaughter activities in 

each district.



FSIS officials could not, however, provide us with quantitative data on 

the actual time in-plant inspectors spend enforcing HMSA or other 

quantitative data from which we could assess the adequacy of in-plant 

inspection resources dedicated to humane handling and slaughter. 

Without this basic information, it is difficult to determine with any 

degree of certainty or precision if the number of inspectors is 

adequate to effectively enforce the HMSA. Also, without this data, FSIS 

cannot determine the appropriate number of inspectors for different 

sized plants or the adequate number of inspectors overall to 

effectively enforce the act. FSIS recently conducted an analysis 

showing that inspectors spent an estimated 132,405 hours, or 63 full-

time equivalents, on humane handling and slaughter activities in fiscal 

year 2003. To come up with this estimate, the agency asked the DVMSs to 

estimate the number of hours that inspectors spent observing humane 

handling, per shift per plant in their districts. The DVMSs aggregated 

this information to determine how many total hours, per plant per year, 

were spent on humane handing and slaughter. Additionally, FSIS 

officials said they have a pilot program in place to track hours spent 

enforcing the HMSA. However, without additional information, such as 

criteria to determine the appropriate number of inspectors for 

different sized plants, the agency has insufficient information to make 

good decisions regarding how to allocate inspectors, and we could not 

conclusively determine whether additional in-plant inspectors are 

needed to ensure compliance with the HMSA.



Nevertheless, discussions with district officials suggest that 

additional resources devoted solely to enforcing the HMSA are not 

needed, but that additional inspectors who could conduct both food 

safety and humane handling activities would be beneficial. District 

managers and their deputies were in general agreement that there is no 

need for additional inspectors whose sole responsibility would be to 

observe for compliance with the HMSA. Five of the 29 district officials 

we spoke with who disagreed with this position told us that dedicated 

HMSA inspectors would be beneficial, primarily at larger plants only, 

or to supplement and follow up on the DVMSs' work when DVMSs are not 

present at a plant. However, almost 40 percent of the district managers 

and their deputies reported a general need for additional inspectors--

inspectors responsible for both humane handling and food safety. They 

noted that filling current vacancies and/or hiring more relief 

inspectors to cover for vacations and other expected and unexpected 

leave would benefit HMSA enforcement. Several officials said this would 

be true particularly in larger plants where the size and configuration 

of the facility make it difficult for inspectors to effectively monitor 

humane handling and food safety compliance at the same time.



While stating that personnel resources for overseeing handling and 

slaughter requirements appear overall adequate, district officials 

expressed some dissatisfaction with the inspectors' overall level of 

knowledge about humane handling and slaughter requirements. According 

to 17 of the 29 district officials and at least 9 of the 16 DVMSs we 

interviewed, despite improvements made by the hands-on training that 

DVMSs provided inspectors, additional training of inspectors would 

improve the agency's ability to properly enforce the HMSA. 

Additionally, 14 DVMSs said that not all inspectors are fully 

knowledgeable about the requirements of the HMSA or the implementing 

regulations--including not being aware that certain actions are 

violations of the HMSA, or what their authority and obligations are 

when a violation has been observed. FSIS officials also believe that 

inspector knowledge needs to be improved, and they said that they are 

committed to doing this through additional training and other efforts. 

We agree that this is a reasonable first step--improving existing 

personnel's knowledge--before making decisions about the need for 

additional resources. Accordingly, we are not making a recommendation 

that FSIS provide additional training.



When we discussed this matter with senior FSIS officials, they said 

that they are currently taking steps to improve inspectors' knowledge. 

As a first step, with the assistance of the DVMSs, FSIS is developing a 

survey of veterinarians' and other supervisory inspectors' overall 

training needs, including needs in the area of humane handling and 

slaughter.[Footnote 31] Additionally, the agency's November 2003 

directive consolidates many HMSA requirements into a single directive, 

making it easier for inspectors to understand and interpret the 

requirements. DVMSs are also developing scenarios that will illustrate 

to inspectors how to implement the HMSA requirements and help them 

better understand their job function as it relates to the act. These 

scenarios are distributed in the form of a monthly report (Humane 

Interactive Knowledge Exchange--HIKE) that FSIS employees will be able 

to access through the Internet.[Footnote 32] FSIS officials believe 

that this will be a successful way of sharing knowledge throughout the 

agency on key policy issues.



Conclusions:



The Congress first passed legislation in 1958 and subsequently in 1978 

to address humane treatment of livestock. Recently, the Congress also 

provided USDA with additional resources and directed the Secretary of 

Agriculture to fully enforce the HMSA and implementing regulations. In 

response, FSIS created the DVMS position. According to many district 

officials, this step has enhanced knowledge among slaughter plant 

inspectors about their duties to ensure the humane handling and 

slaughter of animals. Additionally, very recent efforts, such as the 

new directive for inspectors, demonstrate a commitment to improving 

enforcement of the act. However, FSIS still faces challenges. The 

agency needs to address shortcomings related to adequately recording 

and analyzing documented instances of noncompliance with the HMSA and 

ensure consistent application of enforcement actions before it can 

assure the Congress and the pubic that animals are treated humanely and 

the act is being fully enforced. Finally, the lack of information on 

the level of effort FSIS dedicates to humane handling and slaughter 

activities prevents it from evaluating its own performance and making 

informed decisions on whether additional inspectors are needed.



Recommendations for Executive Action:



We are making six recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture to 

further strengthen the agency's oversight of humane handling and 

slaughter methods at federally inspected facilities.



To provide more quantifiable and informative data on violations of the 

HMSA, we recommend that the Secretary of Agriculture direct FSIS to:



* supplement the narrative found in noncompliance records with more 

specific codes that classify the types and causes of humane handling 

and slaughter violations.



To ensure that district officials use uniform and consistent criteria 

when taking enforcement actions, we recommend that the Secretary of 

Agriculture direct FSIS to:



* establish additional clear, specific, and consistent criteria for 

district offices to use when considering whether to take enforcement 

actions because of repetitive violations;



* require that district offices and inspectors clearly document the 

basis for their decisions regarding enforcement actions that are based 

on repetitive violations.



To ensure that FSIS can make well-informed estimates about the 

resources it needs to enforce the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, we 

recommend that the Secretary of Agriculture direct FSIS to:



* develop a mechanism for identifying the level of effort that 

inspectors currently devote to monitoring humane handling and slaughter 

activities;



* develop criteria for determining the level of inspection resources 

that are appropriate on the basis of plant size, configuration, or 

history of compliance, once the mechanism is developed and in 

operation; and:



* periodically, assess whether that level is sufficient to effectively 

enforce the act.



Agency Comments and Our Responses:



We provided FSIS with a draft of this report for their review and 

comment. FSIS generally agreed with our findings and recommendations. 

In addition, FSIS provided a number of specific comments and 

clarifications, which we incorporated as appropriate. FSIS's comments 

and our responses to them appear in appendix II.



We are sending copies of this report to the Secretary of Agriculture 

and interested congressional committees. We will also provide copies to 

others on request. In addition, the report will be available at no 

charge on the GAO Web site at http://www.gao.gov.



If you or your staff have any questions, please call me at (202) 512-

3841. Contributors to this report are listed in appendix III.



Lawrence J. Dyckman 

Director, Natural Resources and Environment:



Signed by Lawrence J. Dyckman: 



[End of section]



Appendix I: Scope and Methodology:



To assess the scope and frequency of humane handling and slaughter 

violations, we obtained and analyzed data from several sources. First, 

we obtained the U.S. Department of Agriculture's March 2003 Report to 

Congress on Humane Handling and Slaughter Enforcement Activities, in 

which USDA presents their findings on noncompliance with the Humane 

Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) during fiscal year 2002. We reviewed 

that information and followed up with the Food Safety and Inspection 

Service (FSIS) officials who wrote the report to discuss the 

methodology they used when they conducted their analysis. Second, in 

structured interviews with 16 of the 17 District Veterinary Medical 

Specialists (DVMS), we discussed what they thought were the most common 

types of noncompliance with the HMSA, based on their visits to plants 

covered by the act in their districts. In addition, we also reviewed 

the written summaries that they prepared to document these 

observations. Third, we obtained from FSIS all available documentation 

of observed violations to the HMSA for the period January 2001 through 

March 2003, the period for which FSIS could provide us with the most 

complete documentation. This information was provided in the form of 

553 records of noncompliance. To analyze this information provided in 

these forms and determine the frequency of violations, by type of 

violation, as well as their scope, we classified them as follows:



* Ineffective stunning (i.e., one or more animals had to be stunned 

more than once);



* One or more conscious animals showed signs of consciousness past the 

stun box, i.e, when they were hoisted, cut, or bled;



* Facility conditions that either caused injury to an animal or could 

cause injury to an animal, such as broken fences, protruding nails, 

slippery floors, and overcrowded pens;



* Excessive use of electric prods or other devices;



* Mishandling of ambulatory animals, such as hitting, kicking, or 

dragging a conscious animal;



* Mishandling of disabled animals, such as keeping such animals among 

ambulatory animals, increasing the risk of further injury;



* Lack of access to water;



* Lack of access to food; and:



* Other instances of noncompliance with the HMSA or applicable 

regulations.



Using these categories, we aggregated the information to determine the 

frequency of the various types of violations. In addition, to obtain a 

further indication of the "scope" of the violation for cases where 

animals were ineffectively stunned or where conscious animals were 

observed past the stun box, we created a code indicating whether a 

single animal or multiple animals were impacted. A GAO analyst 

knowledgeable of the subject matter conducted all the classifications. 

A second GAO analyst reviewed all forms and codes determined by the 

first analyst for accuracy. Any discrepancies were resolved through 

discussion between the two analysts. We also discussed our methodology 

with FSIS officials who did not have any objections with our approach.



To further evaluate the information presented in the 553 reports, we 

reviewed FSIS regulations and guidance to inspectors regarding when 

they are required to write a noncompliance record and what they are 

supposed to include in it. In addition, in our structured interviews 

with 16 of 17 DVMSs, we obtained their views on inspectors' 

documentation of noncompliance and factors, if any, which may impact 

it.



To determine FSIS actions to enforce compliance with the humane 

handling and slaughter requirements, we obtained information on 

enforcement actions taken at the plant and FSIS district level. To 

determine how many times inspectors took enforcement actions, and under 

what circumstances, we analyzed the 553 noncompliance records we 

obtained from FSIS for the period between January 2001 and March 2003. 

We analyzed the narrative information in these records to determine 

when inspectors temporarily stopped use of equipment or part of the 

plant in response to a violation and for what type of violation. To 

determine how many times district managers took enforcement actions, we 

obtained and analyzed documentation for all plant suspensions and 

notices of intended enforcement actions by a district, for the period 

between October 2001 and July 2003. In addition, we reviewed FSIS 

guidance on when inspectors and districts should take enforcement 

action, and we talked with 16 of the 17 DVMSs about their views on 

inspectors' enforcement of the act and regulations; and we also talked 

with all district managers about how they determine when to take 

enforcement action against a plant.



To assess the extent to which additional resources may be needed to 

ensure that humane handling and slaughter provisions are enforced, we 

contacted FSIS headquarters officials, district managers and deputy 

district managers at the 15 FSIS district offices, and 16 of the 17 

DVMSs. First, from FSIS headquarters, we obtained information officials 

put together on the estimated number of hours that inspectors devoted 

to implementation of the HMSA during fiscal year 2003. We also obtained 

documentation on the training available to inspectors regarding the 

HMSA and information on the agency's upcoming plans to further address 

inspectors' training needs and knowledge regarding the HMSA. Second, we 

conducted structured interviews with district managers and deputy 

district managers at all 15 FSIS districts to identify additional 

resource needs, such as additional inspectors, training, and guidance 

that would be necessary to ensure adequate implementation of the HMSA 

in their district. Third, we conducted structured interviews with 16 of 

the 17 DVMSs to obtain their observations on how knowledgeable 

inspectors are regarding the HMSA and their training needs. We 

supplemented our analysis of the results of this work with interviews 

with Dr. Temple Grandin, a renowned animal-handling expert; industry 

association representatives from the American Meat Institute and the 

National Meat Association; and animal welfare group representatives 

from the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Farming 

Association, and Humane Farm Animal Care, which provided us with their 

views on improving HMSA enforcement.



To assess the reliability of the FSIS data cited in the background 

section regarding plants covered by the HMSA, plant production, size of 

plants, plants covered by each district, and DVMS visits to plants, we 

(1) performed electronic testing for obvious errors in accuracy and 

completeness and (2) had discussions with agency officials 

knowledgeable about the data. We determined that the data were 

sufficiently reliable for the purposes of this report.



We conducted our review from April 2003 through November 2003, in 

accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.



[End of section]



Appendix II: Comments from the Food Safety and Inspection Service:



Note: GAO comments supplementing those in the report text appear at the 

end of this appendix.



United States Department of Agriculture: 

Food Safety and Inspection Service: 

Washington, D.C. 20250



Mr. Lawrence J. Dyckman:



Director, Natural Resources and Environment Team: 

Food and Agricultural Issues:



United States General Accounting Office: 

441 G Street, NW, Room 2T23 

Washington, DC 20548:



JAN 14 2004:



Dear Mr. Dyckman:



In your letter dated December 11, 2003, you requested the U.S. 

Department of Agriculture (USDA) written comments on the Draft report 

GAO 04-247 "Humane Methods of Slaughter Act: USDA Has Addressed Some 

Problems but Still Faces Enforcement Challenges." Thank you for the 

opportunity to provide comments on the draft report.



GENERAL COMMENTS:



We are in general agreement with the findings and recommendations in 

the report, and believe the report supports the Food Safety and 

Inspection Service's (FSIS) enforcement of the Humane Methods of 

Slaughter Act. We are providing the following specific comments to help 

refine the characterization of the Agency's efforts to date. The FSIS 

is taking steps to address the issues identified in the report, and has 

already completed and fully implemented several significant measures to 

address these issues.



SPECIFIC COMMENTS:



1. Highlights Page. Final Sentence, 3RDParagraph. The report states "In 

general, FSIS officials believe that, with the introduction of a 

District Veterinary Medical Officer at each of the agency's field 

offices, the current number of personnel devoted to humane handling and 

slaughter compliance is adequate.":



We ask that the sentence be changed to read "In general, FSIS officials 

believe that, with the introduction of a District Veterinary Medical 

Specialist at each of the agency's field offices, the current number of 

personnel devoted to humane handling and slaughter compliance is 

adequate.":



2. Page 3. Last 2 Sentences, 1st Paragraph. The report states "Finally, 

the FSIS administrator can remove the grant of inspection from a 

facility, which prevents its products from entering interstate or 

foreign commerce. By law, slaughter facilities cannot slaughter and 

process animals without federal inspectors present."



We ask that the sentences be changed to read "Finally, the FSIS 

Administrator can file a complaint to withdraw the grants of inspection 

from a facility. By law, slaughter facilities cannot slaughter and 

process animals for sale in commerce without Federal inspectors 

present.":



3. Page 5. 6th Sentence, 1st paragraph. The report indicates FSIS was 

unable to produce at least 44 of its inspection records that document 

violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) and 

implementing regulations.



GAO should include the fact that they were provided with 553 non-

compliance records (NRs), and many of these records were retrieved from 

the field. The 44 records FSIS did not provide to GAO represent less 

than ten percent of all the NRs documented by FSIS during this time 

period. Some of the hardcopy NRs provided to GAO date from FY 2001. 

Hardcopy records were difficult to obtain because they were not stored 

electronically, and needed to be retrieved from the field. As indicated 

on page 18 of the report, the Agency decided it would rather improve 

its systems for tracking documentation than retrieve hardcopies of 

documents from the field.



4. Page 5. 5th Sentence, 1st Paragraph. The report indicates GAO found 

internal control problems that call into question the reliability of 

FSIS' records during the period between January 2001 and March 2003 

regarding compliance with the Act.



Since GAO analyzed the humane handling data covering a 28 month period, 

FSIS has fully addressed the records reliability and consistency issues 

identified in the report. First, the Performance Based Inspection 

System (PBIS) had been updated during that time. Inspectors now enter 

and store NRs electronically, and NRs can be easily accessed and 

analyzed. The information systems infrastructure to facilitate 

entering, storing, and accessing NR data has been in place since FY 

2002. Second, FSIS established the District Veterinary Medical 

Specialist (DVMS) positions. DVMSs began plant visits in FY 2002 to 

coordinate with inspection personnel on nationally prescribed humane 

slaughter procedures and verification of humane handling activities. 

Although some of the records management and consistency issues raised 

in the report may have been issues for concern in January 2001, they 

are not currently. The Agency has taken steps to address these issues.



5. Page 5. Final sentence on the page, continued on to page 6, 1st 

sentence on the page. The report indicates GAO conducted its own 

analysis of all the non-compliance records provided to them, and that 

FSIS performed its analysis on a sample of records.



The GAO narrative should note that FSIS performed its analysis on a 

sample of approximately half of the NRs available. Also, the report 

should indicate all known differences in the approach GAO used for its 

analysis versus FSIS. For example, the categories used to group the 

violations, or whether or not the noncompliance records were reviewed 

by experienced veterinarians.



6. Page 13. 1st and 2nd full sentences on the page. The report indicates 

that HMSA does not specifically require inspectors to continuously 

observe all animal handling and slaughter procedures, but that the 

Federal Meat Inspection Act requires that each carcass be individually 

inspected after slaughter to ensure that the meat is safe for human 

consumption.



GAO should clarify this statement with the following information. HMSA 

requires continuous inspection of humane handling at every livestock 

slaughter plant. This is done throughout the day by inspection 

personnel at the establishment. While it is a continuous inspection of 

the process, it is not an animal by animal process. Consequently, 

isolated events of non-compliance could be unobserved by inspection 

personnel. However, given the on-going nature of the inspection, 

endemic establishment problems will be identified by inspection 

personnel within a relatively short period of time.



7. Page 16. 1st paragraph, 3rd to the last sentence. The report 

indicates that a number of DVMSs participated in a number of district 

activities that went beyond the scope of humane handling and slaughter 

of animals, and that these activities took as much as seventy-five 

percent of the DVMS's time.



GAO should describe how it determined that some DVMSs spent seventy-

five percent of their time on activities beyond the scope of humane 

handling and slaughter of animals. In some cases, the activities of 

some DVMSs are solely related to humane handling and slaughter. These 

DVMSs never changed their current focus from the implementation of the 

HMSA because they were already spending one hundred percent of their 

time on it. As the report states, currently twelve DVMSs are devoted 

solely to the implementation of HMSA.



8. Page 21. 1st full sentence on the page. The report indicates that FSIS 

officials did not provide any information to suggest that the incidents 

of ineffective stunning GAO had identified were not incidents of actual 

inhumane treatment or that the number of incidents of ineffective 

stunning GAO identified were inaccurate.



A thorough analysis of the NRs requires careful reading and 

interpretation of the narratives provided in the NRs, and, as the 

following examples show, several instances of noncompliance that appear 

to be direct animal injury would not have been considered so in a real-

world assessment. For example, an inspector observed multiple stun 

holes on a head, but when the inspector observed the stunning process 

it was being conducted correctly.



Other examples include:



* An NR documenting a bullet found in a pig without evidence that the 

animal was shot on the establishment premises, and the clinical signs 

observed at postmortem were not consistent with a new wound.



* An NR for excessive prodding with an electric prod, and upon 

investigation by the plant there was no power source and therefore, the 

prods were not electric.



* An NR for downer calves in pens where they might have been trampled, 

but in fact at the time of the NR no additional animals had been 

admitted to the pen and no animals were injured.



In its analysis FSIS would not consider these cases direct animal 

injury NRs.



9. Page 23. The report indicates that the introduction of a humane 

handling procedure code in the PBIS should help FSIS more effectively 

track NRs that document HMSA violations.



GAO should note that a humane handling Inspection System Procedure 

(ISP) code in the PBIS was established, and took effect in October 

2001. The information systems infrastructure to facilitate entering, 

storing, and accessing NR data has been in place since FY 2002. 

Inspectors now enter and store NRs electronically, and NRs can be 

easily accessed and analyzed.



We appreciate your consideration of our comments. If you have any 

questions, please contact Ronald F. Hicks, Assistant Administrator, 

Office of Program Evaluation, Enforcement and Review at (202) 720-8609.



Sincerely,



Signed by: 



Garry L. McKee, Ph.D., M.P.H. 

Administrator:



The following are GAO comments on the Food Safety and Inspection 

Service letter, dated January 14, 2004.



GAO Comments:



1. We clarified our report to reflect this comment.



2. We clarified our report to reflect this comment.



3. We already include the fact that FSIS provided us with 553 

noncompliance records. Additionally, we acknowledge that the 44 records 

that FSIS did not provide to us represent less than 10 percent of all 

the documented noncompliance records for the period.



4. We acknowledge that the internal control problem we identified is 

being addressed. However, we cite the internal control problem because 

it affected the humane handling data for the period of our analysis--

January 2001 to March 2003.



5. The report clarifies that FSIS sampled approximately half of the 

available noncompliance records. We believe that we sufficiently 

indicate the differences in the approaches used by FSIS and us in 

analyzing those records. We acknowledge that the official who conducted 

the FSIS analysis is a trained veterinarian. However, our analysis 

relied directly on information provided by FSIS inspectors in 

noncompliance records.



6. We clarified our report to reflect this comment.



7. The final report clarifies that the 16 DVMSs we interviewed (out of 

17 DVMSs) told us that they originally participated in activities 

beyond the scope of humane handling and slaughter of animals.



8. We have made a slight modification in the report language, but 

overall, we disagree with this comment. In our analysis, we did not 

attempt to reinterpret the narratives contained in FSIS noncompliance 

records that inspectors prepared after observing each violation. We 

categorized each record according to the type of violation to the HMSA 

and appropriate regulations. Regarding the first example in FSIS's 

comments, if a noncompliance record indicated that it was issued 

because of ineffective stunning, that is the way we categorized the 

incident. Further, we did not attempt to impose a standard of whether 

or not documented noncompliance incidents resulted in animal injury for 

two reasons. First, FSIS did not provide us with any additional 

documentation, beyond the noncompliance records, indicating whether 

direct animal injury resulted from the incident. Second, whether or not 

an animal injury occurred is not a standard for writing noncompliance 

records, according to FSIS's own directives. Finally, FSIS did not 

provide us with any additional examples or other information that, in 

their view, indicate that ineffective stunning violations reported in 

noncompliance records did not cause direct injury to animals, and 

therefore, did not result in actual "inhumane treatment." The next 

three examples in FSIS's comments do not pertain to ineffective 

stunning, but we used the same approach to categorizing these type of 

noncompliance records.



9. We acknowledge that FSIS instituted a humane handling inspections 

system procedure code, effective October 2001, which should help FSIS 

better track noncompliance records that document HMSA violations. 

However, we note that this is a universal code for all HMSA violations 

and does not provide any additional information about the type or 

severity of the violation.



[End of section]



Appendix III: GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments:



GAO Contacts:



Lawrence J. Dyckman (202) 512-3841 Maria Cristina Gobin (202) 512-8418:



Acknowledgments:



In addition to the individuals named above, Pauline Seretakis, Heather 

A. Holsinger, Katheryn E. Summers, Charles T. Egan, John W. Delicath, 

and Jennifer R. Popovic made key contributions. Other contributors 

include Aldo A. Benejam, Michele C. Fejfar, Karen K. Keegan, Julian P. 

Klazkin, and Katherine M. Raheb.



FOOTNOTES



[1] Pub. L. No. 85-765, 72 Stat. 862 (1958). 



[2] Pub. L. No. 95-445, 92 Stat. 1069 (1978). Among other things, the 

act amended sections 3 and 10 of the Federal Meat Inspection Act, 21 

U.S.C. sections 603 and 610.



[3] Throughout this report, we use the terms "noncompliance" and 

"violation" interchangeably. This is consistent with FSIS regulations 

and directives.



[4] 7 U.S.C. sections 603, 604. 



[5] Pub. L. No. 107-20, 115 Stat. 155, 164 (2001).



[6] Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, Pub. L. 107-171, 

Section 10305 116 Stat. 134.



[7] Pub. L. No. 108-7, 117 Stat. 11, 22 (2003).



[8] H. Conf. Rep. No. 108-10 (2003).



[9] Pub. L. No. 85-765, 72 Stat. 862 (1958).



[10] 7 U.S.C. Section 1902 (a). The act applies to those establishments 

processing cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep, goats, pigs, and other 

equines. It does not apply to poultry, bison, reindeer, and catalo. 



[11] 7 U.S.C. Section 1902 (b).



[12] The FSIS is also responsible for ensuring the safety of most meat, 

poultry, and processed egg products. 



[13] FSIS classifies plants according to their size: large plants--

those with 500 or more employees, small plants--those with 10 to 499 

employees, and very small plants--those with fewer than 10 employees, 

or annual sales of less than $2.5 million.



[14] FSIS did not provide us with the specific number of inspectors 

that are assigned to meat slaughter facilities.



[15] Throughout this report, we refer to veterinarians and Consumer 

Safety Inspectors as "inspectors."



[16] 7 U.S.C. sections 603, 604. 



[17] FSIS Directive 5001.1, Revision 1: Verifying an Establishment's 

Food Safety System, May 21, 2003. 



[18] If there is an egregious situation of inhumane handling and 

slaughter, the inspector in charge may also immediately suspend 

inspection and immediately notify USDA's district office for prompt 

documentation of the suspension action.



[19] Pub. L. No. 107-20 (2001).



[20] FSIS determined the DVMSs who would only perform humane handling 

and slaughter related work after sending a survey to all DVMSs asking 

them if they would be interested in performing only HMSA work or if 

they would like to perform other duties. The other five DVMSs still 

have humane handling responsibilities, but can also assist with food 

safety and food security. 



[21] Survey of Stunning and Handling in Federally Inspected Beef, Veal, 

Pork, and Sheep Slaughter Plants; Agricultural Research Service, USDA. 

3602-20-00, January 7, 1997.



[22] 2002 Restaurant Audits of Stunning and Handling in Federally 

Inspected Beef and Pork Slaughter Plants; http://www.grandin.com/

survey/2002.restaurant.audits.html. 



[23] FSIS issued its "Rules of Practice" in September 5, 2001, in FSIS 

Notice 36-01 to ensure that all inspection program personnel are 

knowledgeable about the enforcement actions that the agency may take, 

the circumstances under which the various types of enforcement actions 

are appropriate and can be taken, and the procedures that the agency 

will follow in doing so. According to FSIS, the rules of practice 

provide a key link between inspection and enforcement activities. The 

guidance elaborates on the regulatory enforcement actions described at 

9 C.F.R. pt. 500. In November 2003, FSIS issued a new directive to its 

inspection personnel that provides clearer direction regarding 

enforcement.



[24] This contrasts with the dozens of ways that inspectors can 

classify different types of food safety violations ranging from 

sanitation procedures to labeling accuracy. 



[25] See Food Safety and Inspection Service, Humane Handling and 

Slaughter Enforcement Activities, Report to Congress, March 2003. 



[26] USDA only provided us with four examples of cases where they did 

not consider the reported violation to have caused direct injury to 

animals, therefore resulting in actual inhumane treatment of animals. 



[27] FSIS Directive 6900.2, "Humane Handling and Slaughter of 

Livestock," November 25, 2003. This directive informs inspectors of the 

requirements, verification activities, and enforcement actions for 

ensuring that the handling and slaughter of livestock, including the 

slaughter of livestock by religious ritual methods, is humane. The 

directive also explains how inspectors should approach these 

activities. Specifically, the directive leads the reader through the 

existing regulatory requirements and explains in simple, easy to read 

and understand language how inspection program personnel should verify 

compliance with each of these regulations and what actions they should 

take if there is noncompliance. 



[28] From January 2001 through March 2003, inspectors issued reject 

tags to temporarily interrupt the use of equipment or facilities or to 

slow down or stop production lines 214 times. The most prevalent 

reasons for these reject tags were ineffective stunning and conscious 

animals observed being slaughtered.



[29] While our analysis included 167 instances of ineffective stunning, 

we could not determine from the documentation provided how many animals 

were impacted in two of these cases. Therefore, this analysis is based 

on 165 incidents.



[30] This was the result of an FSIS realignment of its district 

offices. When USDA introduced the DVMS position, it assigned one DVMS 

to each of its 17 districts. In May 2002, an organizational realignment 

consolidated FSIS's 17 district offices into 15. In the realignment, 

the Pickerington, Ohio, office became a satellite office in the Chicago 

district, and the Salem, Oregon, office became a satellite office in 

the Boulder, Colorado, district. As a result, the Chicago and Boulder 

districts now have two DVMSs each.



[31] FSIS senior officials said that the reason they are sending this 

survey primarily to veterinarians at this point is because Consumer 

Safety Inspectors are unionized, which makes implementation of a survey 

instrument to them a cumbersome and lengthy process. 



[32] The first HIKE was issued in the fall of 2003. 



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